WRC Confirms $28.6 Million in Back Pay Commitments to Karnataka Garment Workers

Update Feb. 28, 2022: After 22 months of refusing to do so, 14 major Karnataka garment suppliers have finally committed to pay the legal minimum wage, along with all arrears owed, to their workers; however, some suppliers are still refusing to pay. The table below lists top garment manufacturers in Karnataka, showing which ones have committed to pay, and which have not, along with the names of the brands that source from these suppliers. Apart from the suppliers listed in the table, there is one significant supplier in Karnataka that paid the minimum wage increase from the outset.

Of the $58.7 million owed to garment workers in Karnataka due to accruing wage theft since April 2020, the WRC has identified firm commitments to pay their workers from suppliers representing $28.6 million of these arrears. Allowing for factories whose commitments have not yet been reported to us, we estimate the total committed represents well over half of the total owed. Verification is ongoing to ensure all workers receive the full amount they are owed. The WRC will work to hold suppliers and brands accountable for any underpayments.

The “reported major buyers” column lists brands for which import records or the brands’ own supplier disclosure data, published since July 2021 or the most recent available copy, identify the corresponding factory as a supplier to those brands.
*
Arvind committed to increase wages and pay arrears for its lowest-paid workers, but claims its higher-paid workers already receive minimum wages, taking into account certain allowances. The WRC is evaluating this claim.
† The brand sourced from the supplier during the period in which wage theft occurred and has informed the WRC that it no longer does business with the supplier.
Gokaldas Images has no relationship to Gokaldas Exports.

Background: 

In April 2020, a minimum wage increase went into effect in the Indian state of Karnataka, one of the country's largest centers of garment manufacturing. Factory owners producing for leading apparel brands refused to pay. As a result, 400,000 garment workers across over a thousand factories were cheated of the legal minimum wage. 

Workers report that the impact of not receiving this increase has been concrete and significant: reduced access to food staples, lost housing, lost schooling for their children. 

This is the worst wage theft the WRC has documented in the global garment industry. Apparel brands were aware of the theft and allowed it to continue. 

In early February of 2022—after a successful lawsuit by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), after months of engagement with brands by the WRC, and after a growing list of labor rights advocates brought their voices to bear—India's largest garment manufacturer, Shahi Exports, announced that it would immediately begin paying its 80,000 employees in Karnataka the correct minimum wage. The company also committed to pay all arrears, to both current and former workers, in two tranches, one in February and one in May. Other suppliers soon followed suit. The week of February 7, these suppliers paid workers millions in overdue wages, with much more to come.

Now, it is time for brands to ensure that all their suppliers in Karnataka obey the law and pay what they owe to workers.

“If we had got the wage increase, we could have at least eaten vegetables a few times a month. Instead, I have only fed my family rice and chutney.”

– A woman worker in Karnataka, India

“The brands who buy from my factory demand quality and for the clothes to be shipped in time but aren’t bothered with what happens to me.”

– A garment worker in Karnataka